Anchorage murder case from over 40 years ago goes to trial

Shelley Connolly was last seen alive in the early morning hours of January 7, 1978.

The 16-year-old girl was seen at a local bar and then at a restaurant in Anchorage. The following morning, her body was found down an embankment near Beluga Point on the Seward Highway. A medical examiner determined that Connolly’s death was a result of homicide and confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted.

The investigation eventually came to a standstill.

In 2019, advanced DNA technology successfully matched a sample from Connolly’s body to Donald McQuade of Gresham, Oregon, revealing that he was 21 years old and living in Anchorage at the time of Connolly’s murder. As a result, McQuade was formally charged with her murder.

On Wednesday, McQuade, who is now 67 years old, sat in an Anchorage courtroom as opening statements were delivered in the murder trial. Assistant Attorney General Paige Smothers discussed the evidence that connected McQuade to Connolly’s murder.

Defense Attorney Kyle Barber, however, argued that DNA evidence fails to provide a complete narrative, particularly when it comes to identifying Connolly’s killer.

According to Barber, the DNA evidence merely implies that Donald McQuade and Shelley Connolly may have engaged in sexual activity prior to her death. However, it does not provide any information regarding the identity of the killer, whether she was sexually assaulted, or who was present during the incident.

The state is anticipated to present its case over the course of several days, followed by the defense having the opportunity to present its case to the jury.

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